On Tuesday, University of Maryland athletics staff announced a plan to build a $36 million basketball performance center by the existing Xfinity Center.
Maryland men’s basketball coach Mark Turgeon walked to the podium in the middle of the court at Xfinity Center on Tuesday morning, raised both arms over his and emphatically pumped his fists. Turgeon appeared as if his team had just won a big game.
The moment was, according to Turgeon, at least “six or seven years” in the making: the announcement of plans by the Maryland athletic department to build a new Basketball Performance Center for its men’s and women’s teams.
“Yes!” he shouted. “I am so excited, you have no idea. What a great day for men’s and women’s basketball, our athletic department, for our university. There were many days when I wasn’t sure we were going to get to this point.
“It’s been a passion of mine for quite some time. We had to build the football facility [at Cole Field House]. It’s a terrific thing. I had to be patient, which I’m not good at, to be quite honest with you. ... Finally the time came where we were able to do some things and raise some money.”
The project, which could take up to three years to complete, will cost an estimated $36 million, of which $19 million has been raised privately through what athletic director Damon Evans called “a comprehensive fundraising campaign.” According to the university, all the money will come from private donors.
The proposed 60,000-square-foot facility would feature two full-size practice courts, locker rooms, a strength-and-conditioning space at least four times the size of the current one, a sports medicine wing and offices for both programs.
“Maryland basketball has a storied history, and today we are proud to add to that rich tradition,” Evans said. “This new performance center ... will usher in a new era of success for basketball.”
Longtime women’s coach Brenda Frese was not as emotional as her counterpart, but said of the project, “Obviously this practice facility for both Coach Turgeon and I, and for our entire athletic department is a game changer.”
“Being able to have access to your players, being able to create your own schedule, when you want to practice, is huge,” she added. “I know we juggle that with our practice time slots. ... You’ll be able to control all those variables.”
Evans said the addition of the performance center, which will be built adjacent to Xfinity Center, will free up space for the school’s other programs to improve their locker rooms and sports medicine facilities, as well as give the department more flexibility doling out practice time. He said it will also allow the arena to be rented out.
“It will finally allow us to start hosting more events in Xfinity, such as shows and concerts,” Evans said.
Evans and Turgeon credited much of the first phase of the fundraising to longtime men’s basketball booster Harvey Sanders, a Maryland graduate who was a walk-on for Lefty Driesell’s first season in 1969-70.
Evans called Sanders “a force behind this effort,” and added, “we would not be here on this stage today without his drive and passion.” Turgeon, who calls Sanders “Coach Harvey,” said the New York businessman “was very generous and very relentless in his approach to getting this building built."
Sanders declined to say how much he will contribute to the project. Unable to attend Tuesday’s news conference because of family and business conflicts, Sanders said in a telephone interview that getting to the point where plans were unveiled was not easy.
“Damon Evans and [vice president for university relations] Jackie Lewis supported us once a group of private donors were able to prove that we could raise enough money to begin this campaign,” Sanders said. “A fine university like ours deserves to have a basketball facility.”
Maryland is currently the only school in the Big Ten and only one of two Power 5 schools — the other is Boston College — that doesn’t have an indoor practice facility for basketball.
But Turgeon made clear that “this building is not about keeping up with the Joneses.”
“It’s an arms race in college athletics, but this building is needed,” Turgeon said. “Damon talked about how we can have concerts in this building and make money for our athletic program, which we need.”
Though Turgeon and Frese have been able to string together strong recruiting classes throughout their respective tenures despite lacking a practice facility, building one sends a message to prospects and their families.
“I think what the building shows [is] progress. It shows that we’re not happy with everything,” Turgeon said. “We’re trying to set a standard of excellence. I think that’s huge for us. In my recruiting, they’re going to Villanova and Virginia and Georgetown. They all have tremendous facilities. That will make it at least even for us.”
While Turgeon had indoor practice facilities at previous stops Texas A&M and Wichita State, this will be a new experience for Frese. She acknowledged she’s taken notice of the practice facilities her opponents had when playing road games.
Turgeon said he’d resigned himself at times to the program not having a practice facility during his tenure with the Terps.
“Even a year ago, I looked at Damon and said, ‘Quit talking to me about the practice facility. It’s not going to happen,’ ” Turgeon said. “But Harvey wouldn’t let us give up. There’s a lot of people that turned over a lot of stones to make this happen. Thank you for doing that. It helps me sleep at night and I don’t yell at Damon quite as much.”
Turgeon is hopeful it will be part of his legacy at Maryland.
“I’m not going to be the coach at Maryland forever,” said Turgeon, who’s going into his ninth season. “Gary [Williams] built this building [Xfinity Center] with his national championship. We’re going to build a nice practice facility for people down the road.”